SALINAS, Calif. — Alessandro PierGuidi, of Tortona, Italy, qualified for the GT pole for Round 20 at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca presented by Cadillac. In GTA, Eric Lux, of Buffalo, N.Y., captured the pole position while Doylestown, Penn.’s Colin Thompson secured the top spot in GT Cup presented by MOMO for Round 18 of the Championship.
Saturday’s 45-minute qualifying session was broken into two 20-minute segments with GTA and GT Cup taking to the track first under moderate 69-degree conditions with mostly cloudy skies.
Early in the session, GTA drivers’ championship points leader Frank Montecalvo, of Highlands, N.J., set the class top spot at 1:26.288 in the No. 66 Bayshore Racing Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3.
Shortly after, Lux jumped into the top spot in the No. 08 Rembrandt Charms/Monticello Motor Club Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 with a 1:25.618 lap.
Martin Fuentes, of Mexico City, Mexico, slotted into the number two spot with a 1:25.835 lap in the No. 07 ScuderiaCorsa/Hublot/Samsung/UnderArmour Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia.
Lux, Fuentes, and Montecalvo then bettered their respective lap times, but remained in the same positions for the grid. Lux’s 1:25.284 was fast enough to capture the pole position, while Fuentes’ 1:25.338 and Montecalvo’s 1:25.395 kept the field tight and secured the second and third positions.
In GT Cup qualifying, class drivers’ championship points leader Thompson set the pace early in the session in the No. 11 Porsche of Bucks County/Penn Valley Constructors/Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes/Austin Hatcher Foundation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car with a 1:28.568.
Salt Lake City, Utah’s Sloan Urry in the No. 02 Security National/Engel & Volkers Porsche and Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas, in the No. 17 Amsource Capital/Panther Pipeline Porsche followed closely, swapping second and third positions throughout the session until Udell’s 1:28.640 secured second position on the grid, placing Urry in the third spot with a 1:28.858.
The second 20-minute session for GT class took place under slightly-warmer 71-degree temperatures but with the mostly cloudy conditions prevailing.
Early in GT qualifying, Alessandro Balzan, of Rovigo, Italy, set a fast lap time of 1:23.961 in the No. 29 MOMO/NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, good enough top the charts. Team partner PierGuidi, in the No. 30 Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, held second with a 1:24.60, while Laguna Beach, Calif. resident Michael Lewis took the third spot in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing/Curb-Agajanian Porsche 911 GT3R with a 1:25.077.
Soon after, PierGuidi set a faster lap time of 1:23.734 to retain first place, while Championship points contender Johnny O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., took the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-VR GT3 to the third spot with a 1:24.553 lap.
With a little over six minutes remaining in the session, the top spots were held by PierGuidi’s 1:23.734 lap, Balzan’s 1:23.961, and Windermere, Fla.’s Ryan Dalziel in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing/World PMO Porsche GT3R (1:24.273).
Drivers’ Championship contender Olivier Beretta, of Monte Carlo, Monaco, in the No. 61 Ferrari of Ontario/Toronto/Alberta R. Ferri Motorsport
Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia early in the session set a 1:24.904 lap time for 12th on the grid, but returned to the pits and was queued to return on-track in a quest for the pole. However, with just under six minutes remaining, Chris Dyson, of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., took the No. 16 Dentley/Breitling/Mobil1 Bentley Continental GT3 off-track and into a wall between turns five and six, causing a red flag condition on track.
With two minutes left remaining on the clock and the red flag still active on the track during the incident clean-up, officials called off the remainder of the session. Beretta retained his 12th grid position while PierGuidi, Balzan, and Dalziel secured the top three positions for the final GT race of the season. O’Connell will start 5th.
GTA polesitter Eric Lux remarked, “This is one of my favorite tracks. Up on the list would be Bathurst (in Austalia) and this place reminds me of Bathurst. It is a great rhythm track for any kind of driver. It was a pleasure to get here and have the car roll off the trailer with a good setup. We made a few minor changes but we were right there with an excellent setup for qualifying.” He added, “I have to give the engineering staff praise here. Frankie (Montecalvo) and I had our eyes in the rear view mirror to see if Martin (Fuentes) was going to go back out for another qualifying run. We were prepared to go back out and take another shot at the pole. He didn’t go out again and now we can concentrate on the race. The track seemed a little creasier than usual here. I don’t know if it was the heat this week on the track or the different rubber compounds this weekend. It will make the race very interesting though.”
GT Cup top qualifier Thompson stated, “This track has a special place in my heart. This is one of the first race tracks came to when I started in road racing at age 15 in the Skip Barber school. I’ve been coming here a long time now. I love coming here. It’s such a famous and ironic race course. Not to mention, the ‘Corkscrew’ is unbelievable to go through with the race car.” Thompson concluded, “We were able to win the championship last year with a win (in another series) and hope to do the same this year. So it’s time to go to work for that feat.”
“I’ve never been here before but it is already one of the favorite tracks. I just came here a few days ago, but immediately, I felt I would like this track and my Ferrari would be good here,” PierGuidi commented of his GT pole qualifying. “This track is so famous in Europe with the Alex Zanardi pass here (in CART in 1996). I was able to play a lot on the racing game at Laguna Seca. To be here is such a pleasure for me. I look forward to the race on Sunday.”
GT, GTA, and GT Cup competitors now get set for the final race of the season and Round 20 scheduled for 1:20 p.m. Pacific/4:20 p.m. Eastern. Catch live timing and results at http://worldchallenge.growsites.net.